Birds

A black bird with a white head and white tail soars in an empty, blue sky.
Bald eagles are a rare sight at El Malpais any time of year.

NPS Photo

Bald eagles and golden eagles soar in the winter, migrating songbirds dart through in spring and fall, and year-long residents like white-throated swifts and canyon wrens are just some of the more than 190 bird species you'll encounter at El Malpais National Monument. A variety of habitats--such as andstone cliffs, shortgrass prairies, scrubland, and rugged lava flows--offer a variety of birds to watch any time of year!

Great birdwatching sites along Highway 117 include Sandstone Bluffs, La Ventana Natural Arch and Narrows Picnic Areas. Highway 53 on the west side of the monument offers access to the El Calderon area, Zuni-Acoma Trail, and County Road 42 . Summer monsoons create vernal, or seasonal, ponds along roadsides that attract visitors such as great blue herons. Always be aware of your surroundings while bird watching.

 
A person with their back to the camera holds a pair of binoculars up to their eyes.
A volunteer scans the North Pasture area for birds.

NPS photo Dale Dombrowski

Raptor and Bird Monitoring

While bird watching, you can help the Natural Resource rangers track what birds come and go from El Malpais. Although most monitoring occurs on the east and northwestern sides of the monument, there are 114,000 for birds to live.

You can check on sightings by logging into the National Aububon Society's eBird website. Bar charts offer what time of year you may observe certain species. You can also input a particular species or region on eBird's Explore main page.

Llearn more about volunteering with the bird monitoring program on our Volunteering page.

A bird of prey lands on the top of a pine tree.
Red-tailed hawks are the most commonly observed raptor in North America, and El Malpais is no exception.

NPS photo Dale Dombrowski

Raptors

El Malpais offers both open scrubland and grasslands for raptors such as red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), American kestrels (Falco sparverius), and the occasional peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) to soar and hunt over.

More elusive, and nocturnal, great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) and western screech-owls (Otus kennicottii) perch in the more established forests and individual trees in and around the lava flows.

 
The striped neck and head of a roadrunner faces the camera with faded sagebrush behind it.
A roadrunner's coloration helps it blend in with its surroundings until they start to run.

Photo Dale Dombrowski

Blink and You Might Miss It

Made famous from cartoons, the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is not as common at El Malpais as other parts of the region. Sightings aren't exactly rare, but also not common since roadrunners prefer open areas to capture prey. Prey items include scorpions, rattlesnakes, spiders, and a number of other small animals. On occasion, these birds may team up to capture larger rattlesnakes.

Related to cuckoos, roadrunners can fly but prefer to remain on the ground. Roadrunners earn their namesake by reaching each speeds of 18 miles per hour (29 kmh). When not running, it may be easy to miss them: they easily blend in with their surroundings with a brown, white, and buff body and a shaggy, crested head.

 

A full list of El Malpais birds is under construction and will be available for future download.

Last updated: January 4, 2021

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1900 E. Santa Fe Ave.
Grants , NM 87020

Phone:

505 876-2783

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